The title: A Midsummer's Magic
The author: Mary Chase Comstock
Publication: Zebra, 1994
Got it from: DC, Xmas 2006
You know, for 217 pages, there's an awful lot going on in this book. The best way I can think to describe this is a mash-up of Jane Austen, Harry Potter and (naturally) A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are at least three couples in this book, as well as various interfering interlopers, but surprisingly it never seems to get overwhelming.
Are you ready to follow? Good. The story opens with two bratty kids being sent off to their mysterious aunt's in Cornwall. Brat #1 is a mischievous little boy, Brat #2 is a petulant sixteen-year-old girl who's recently been crossed in love. There's also some side story involving their nurse, who is a bit wackaloo crazy and "a-feered" of the ghosties of Cornwall.
Meanwhile, in Cornwall, Aunt Hippolyta (aka Polly) feels a shudder of foreboding. Polly, I might add, is a wrinkled old woman of twenty-seven, a magician, and the widow* of a very powerful wizard. What is this foreboding she senses? Oh, it's just that wacky niece and nephew of hers. Add them to the strange crew that's already assembled at her house for reasons I can't recall. There's her stepson, Edward. There's Lady Bristlethwaite and her two stepdaughters, who keep making goo-goo eyes at Edward. There's old Sir Geoffrey Mimms, who has a thing for Lady Bristlethwaite. And then there's Julian St. Ives (that's him holding the raven on the cover) who is studying magic while waiting for his great-uncle to die. Naturally, Julian is completely besotted with Aunt Polly and finds her absent-minded ways utterly charming.
What happens next are the usual shenanigans: the nephew becomes invisible, the niece and Edward flirt with each other and she dances with the fairies at midsummer, Sir Geoffrey attempts to break a family curse, some scowling and cape-twirling villain shows up and is easily dispatched with, everybody drinks punch and falls in love with the wrong person, etc. etc.
This is exactly the sort of silly book I shouldn't love but do anyway. I enjoyed it through and through. The plot was so thin you could break it with a fork, the characters were absolute caricatures and so much was left out I thought I'd only read the middle of a much larger book. But it was such good fun!
Q: Does Aunt Polly actually wear the dress on the cover in the book, or did some artist just put it there because it looks like what a lady magician would wear?
A: She actually does wear the dress in the book.
*Yep. She's a virgin widow, alright. The most dreaded character trope in Romancelandia. But it works here.